In addition to improving your own time management skills, you can help promote them in your organization. Learn how to work with your boss and employees to develop a time-efficient culture.
Work with your boss
The way your manager manages his or her time affects you and others in your organization. It’s important for you to understand—and work with—these behaviors so they don’t impede your goal of managing your own time effectively.
Some bosses unknowingly create time-wasting impediments for their direct reports. These include:
- Unclear goals. If you and your boss don’t have the same expectations about your goals, you may end up producing disappointing results. Meet with your supervisor regularly to agree on your goals, ensure they support the organization’s strategy, and assign deadlines.
- Confusing instructions. Supervisors sometimes have specific preferences for how they want something done, but don’t communicate those preferences clearly. When this happens, their employees end up wasting time redoing work.
When your manager asks you to handle a project:
- Draft a preliminary plan for how you intend to approach the task.
- Review the plan with your boss and incorporate her feedback.
- Have her review the plan again until you have her approval.
If you use this process consistently, your boss will eventually realize she can save time by being more specific when she assigns the work.
- Time-consuming approvals. Some supervisors need to approve everything before letting their employees take the next steps in completing a task. Not surprisingly, these bosses often can’t respond in a timely fashion to the many decisions they’d like to make. Tasks get held up, and initiatives grind to a halt.
To help expedite delayed tasks:
- Assess how the approval process has impeded productivity.
- Meet with your boss to discuss your findings and to offer possible solutions. By communicating the problem and pointing out its costs, you may be able to persuade him to relinquish some control.
- Develop remedies that your boss can live with. For instance, identify tasks that can proceed without management approval. Or urge him to delegate approval authority to you or someone else for less-critical tasks.
It’s easy to complain about time-wasting bosses—and hard to see how your own behavior might be wasting your supervisor’s time.
To respect your boss’s time constraints:
- Be prepared for meetings. When you request a meeting with your boss, prepare thoroughly so you can make the best use of the time.
- Don’t ask your boss to handle problems. Instead, take proposed solutions and ask for feedback.
- Accommodate your boss’s work style. For example, if your supervisor prefers to receive information in writing rather than in person, honor that preference.
Saying “no” to your boss shouldn’t be something that you do routinely. However, when you truly don’t have the time to take something else on, you need to let your supervisor know. You might look like a team player by accepting the new work, but you won’t look good if the quality of your work suffers, or if you don’t meet timelines or customer expectations.
When your boss asks you to take on added responsibilities that you can’t fit into your schedule:
- Don’t say anything definite until you’ve thought the request through. Say you’d like to talk about the proposal the next day.
- Use your time to prepare a response. Look at the deadlines for your other projects as well as the items on your to-do list.
- When you meet with your boss, review the projects and tasks you are currently working on. Ask your supervisor to help you decide how all of your projects—including the proposed one—should be prioritized.
Support your employees
As a manager, you’re responsible for developing your employees and ensuring they have the time and resources they need to get their work done. By effectively delegating tasks, respecting your employees’ time, and teaching them time management skills, you’ll fulfill both of these objectives.
If you are overwhelmed with work and your subordinates are not, you need to delegate more. Some managers are uneasy about delegating because they fear losing control of their work. Others worry they’d be abdicating their responsibilities. Still others believe it’s more efficient to do the task themselves. In the long term, however, everyone gains when you put your trust in others to get the job done.
Delegating offers many benefits:
- You reduce your workload and stress level by removing tasks from your to-do list that others are qualified to handle.
- You gain a better understanding of your employees’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses because you can observe them working on new tasks.
- Your employees see that you trust them. They also get an opportunity to develop new skills and take on added responsibility.
- Your employees may offer new insights into how to handle a complex situation or task.
Avoid passing off only tedious or difficult jobs. It’s important to delegate tasks that spark people’s interest and enjoyment. Provide career opportunities for others by delegating functions that have high visibility in the organization.
To delegate effectively, be sure to:
- Select the right person for the task. Choose someone who has the knowledge, skills, and interest for the task or the aptitude for learning it.
- Communicate expectations clearly. These should include the requirements for success, timeline, and budget.
- Share relevant information. Provide the employee with background information, previous research, and best practices.
- Delegate authority. Be sure to give the employee the right to make decisions about the task.
- Monitor progress and provide feedback. Periodically check in to see if the employee needs resources or guidance. At the end of the task, discuss how it went so you can both learn from the experience.
- Don’t micromanage. Give people the room they need to do the job in their own way.
Review team members’ goals
Regularly review your employees’ goals with them. For them to use their time effectively, they need to know what they are expected to accomplish.
Make sure your direct reports understand the details and importance of their goals. Also, if they need additional training, knowledge, or skills to carry out their tasks, create personalized development plans. These plans should include coaching, mentoring, readings, classes, or opportunities to shadow others.
Employees who balance their work and home lives have far more energy and feel more loyal to their organizations than those whose work lives consume them completely.
To help your employees achieve this balance:
- Emphasize results more than how, where, and when work gets done. If possible, allow employees to create work schedules that align with their commutes, family lives, and peak performance times. They will be happier—and more productive.
- Acknowledge that people have home lives. When you show an interest in your employees’ families, hobbies, and civic obligations, you reinforce the importance of balancing work and personal life. You also boost their morale and motivation.
- Encourage more efficient ways of working. Change procedures that needlessly infringe on people’s time. For example, if 4:00 p.m. staff meetings drag on until 6:30 p.m., reschedule them as lunch meetings.
Teach good time management
By practicing good time management skills yourself, you become a role model for effective behaviors. Watch for time-wasting behaviors that you may be inflicting on your own direct reports. You don’t want them to use valuable time figuring out how to correct your counterproductive habits.
You may also want to offer training in time management practices to your employees. However, don’t expect that merely attending a course or working through an online seminar will be enough.
To help your employees internalize what they’ve learned and translate it into permanent new behaviors, talk with them about what they have learned. Share samples of your own schedules and to-do lists. By encouraging your employees to make better use of their time, you benefit your organization overall.
Contribute to a time-efficient culture
As a manager, you can influence how people within your organization view and use time. Promote effective time management attitudes and behaviors during meetings and business travel. In addition, encourage people within the organization to recognize their coworkers’ approaches to time management, so they can figure out how to work well together.
Boost meeting productivity
You have probably found that some meetings are necessary and productive, whereas others are not. Productive meetings are well run and respect people’s time and energy. In contrast, nonproductive meetings tend to be disorganized, without a clear sense of purpose or effective facilitation.
Before you schedule a meeting, think about whether it is really needed. You might be able to achieve your goals via phone calls, emails, or a memo.
Conducting a Productive Meeting
If you determine that a meeting is necessary:
- Create a clear agenda. A good meeting agenda lets people know what they need to prepare for the meeting, how long the meeting will take, and what you expect to accomplish.
- Think carefully about the attendee list. Be sure everyone you invite needs to be there. If certain team members don’t need to be part of the discussion, but do need to know the outcomes, send them a copy of the meeting notes.
- Schedule short meetings. If you schedule an hour for a meeting, you will likely use all that time. Depending on what you want to accomplish, try scheduling 15- or 30-minute meetings.
- Start on time. Don’t wait for people who are late—it wastes the time of those who showed up promptly. Once you get a reputation for starting your meetings on time, attendees will be there on schedule.
- Run an efficient meeting. Stick to the agenda and cut off tangential discussions. You don’t need to be harsh, but keep things moving and on track.
Schedule travel wisely
Travel is often a necessary part of conducting business. But because travel consumes so much time, everyone should routinely assess its benefits relative to its costs.
To assess the value of a particular trip:
1. Track how you spent your time on the trip. Include both the time you spent traveling to your destination and the time you spent in meetings and other work-related activities.
2. Estimate what those hours cost the organization. Include salary and benefits.
3. Add your estimate to the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals.
4. Compare the value produced by the trip to the financial cost. For example, if you attended a regional association meeting and came back without having made good contacts or learning something new, then it wasn’t worth the $1,600.00 spent.
If you find that the value derived from your trip is not worth the cost, in the future, consider using web conferencing or online training in the future.
Navigate cultural and stylistic differences
It’s natural to assume that everyone you work with perceives time the same way you do. The reality is that people have different cultural backgrounds and styles that influence their perspectives and behavior around time.
Some cultures, like the Middle East and Latin America, are polychronic. People from these areas prefer to juggle many responsibilities at once. Other cultures, like the U.S. and northern Europe, are monochronic. People from these regions prefer to focus on one thing at a time. Asian, Arab, and southern European cultures place a heavy emphasis on personal relationships. They may prioritize interaction with people over strict adherence to schedules and appointments.
Personality and values also drive time management behavior. Some people have a need to control time. They are rarely late and emphasize schedules and timing. Others aren’t as motivated by time. Instead, they may believe that completing a task is more important than adhering to strict time constraints.
Dana is always on time for meetings. It annoys her when her colleague, Marsha, is late, which happens frequently. Dana doesn’t know that Marsha is often delayed because she is coming from other meetings. Marsha believes it would be rude to interrupt the conversation at another meeting just because the time was up.
If you are working with people whose culture or style differs from your own:
- Get your differences out into the open. Acknowledge that you view time differently and have different time management habits. Work out a mutual understanding for how you can work best together.
- Recognize that just because someone approaches tasks differently than you would, they aren’t necessarily doing them wrong. Forcing your work style on someone else may cause more problems than it solves.
- When possible, let team members review your detailed work schedules. This will allow them to realistically assess how long it will take them to complete their part of the project.